Just outside of Clearwater, B.C., you’ll find a lovely working farm owned by the Miller Family, uniquely named KnowWhere Farms — in the middle of “nowhere,” being outside of any big cities, but knowing where one’s food comes from, explained Kyler Miller.
The first-generation farmers said they rely heavily on their farming neighbours who have decades more experience than them.
Kyler and Sylvia met and married in 2008. Kyler said when Sylvia refused to rebuff his advances, he knew they were right for one another.
At the time, Sylvia had graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Biology and Kyler was enrolled in Forest Technology at Thompson Rivers University, graduating soon after. They became inseparable and wanted to “get on with life,” having like-minded goals which have since evolved into their family-run farm. They have five daughters: Sarah, 13; Laura, 11; Christina, 9; Rebekah, 7; and Hannah, 4.
There is never a dull moment on the farm. The girls earn a “commission” by gathering eggs and feeding livestock.
“Whatever farm enterprises mom and dad collect revenue from, the girls can too,” said Sylvia.
The home-schooled siblings stay active in the community. They’ll show some of the farm’s livestock in the North Thompson Fall Fair in Barriere over labour day weekend, with lambs, chickens and art.
There is a confidence each of the young sisters possess. They use the tractor under supervision or in handling and caring for all the animals on the farm. They enjoy helping during the weekly farmers’ markets and often negotiate with customers, selling homegrown produce, hand-dyed wool, fresh free-range eggs and taking meat orders. Something truly impressive HARVEST noticed during the hours spent with the whole family was that there was never an unkind word nor an argument, only respectful banter, laughter and conversation together. Kyler’s dad jokes resulted in some giggles and a few eye rolls.
The Millers pointed out that after moving into their home in 2017, they shaped the landscape around it to manage fire prevention, risk and reduction. Kyler described the land as “a rugged, dry, steeply south-west sloping interior Douglas Fir forest.”
There is also a large reserve water tank strategically located near the paddocks and pasture, indicating thoughtful planning for multi-use as needed.
The Millers currently have 14 Corriedale breeding ewes, with 10 of those as bottle-fed lambs from the well-known Aveley Ranch near Vavenby. The other four were born from their own breeding stock. They have two rams, one Corriedale raised by Aveley Ranch.
“We started raising sheep in 2017 with six bottle lambs, and we have less than 100 hens, along with a couple of roosters for entertainment,” said Sylvia with a smile. “We change the breed of our layers annually to help us track the age of hens, and the chickens are moved weekly to new ground in their ‘egg-mobile’ (mobile coop) that is set up with special fencing for predator protection and to keep them focused in one area. This systematic moving of the meat chickens and turkeys is intentional as we find pasture pens moved frequently to fresh ground spread nutrients and de-thatch the ground behind them.”
Special herding Pyrenees, Akbash and Maremma dogs are a vital part of the farm operation, specifically trained to protect, guard and guide stock. Nellie, a Maremma, seemed to smile adoringly at the family, following along and stopping for pats, content amongst the ewes. Romeo lives with the Rams in a sturdy fenced green pasture and, fiercely aware of strangers, gave us a warning when we approached. Two sisters, Jane and Lizzie, Pyrenees crosses, complete the canine team.
When asked how they became inspired to pursue this type of farming, Kyler said, “Sylvia felt better eating certain foods, and in knowing where it was coming from, in eating tastier meat, and as our family grew, we recognized the need for more space to grow and share with our neighbours.”
KnowWhere Farms is committed to being local. The lambs and sheep have no grain supplementation, and because sheep consume less water daily than cattle, they’re ideal for their relatively dry microclimate.
Their chickens spend their days free ranging outside, being moved to new pastures throughout their growing season.
“This meat is handcrafted, in the sense that each rotationally grazed, temporary paddock is carefully thought out and planned to utilize the size of scratching space and giving the chickens access to available species, such as insects, for feed,” said Kyler.
KnowWhere Farms uses Spring Valley Ranch, a small farm in Pritchard, to process their birds, which takes great care with their packaging and handling while ensuring the packaged poultry won’t get freezer burnt. They also use Rainer Custom Cutting in Darfield, a long-time multi-generational business, for handling, processing and packaging of the lambs in late fall.
Not only is Kyler a forester, but he is also a fencing contractor, which has allowed him to get to know many others with similar thoughts and aspirations on farming and rural living.
“The online farming community is huge and is a profound inspiration having an impact on our farming processes and practices. We’ve gotten to know close local ‘rock star’ farmers and others from afar being inspired by neighbours with relevant farming experience.”
As avid readers, the family has drawn from books by authors Laura Ingalls Wilder, John Seymour and Paul Harvey, which The Millers referred to as “romantic notions” but acknowledge the writers’ points to living practical, attainable and self-disciplined lifestyles that thrive on determination and hard work.
Their hopes for the future?
“The plan is to regeneratively grow our topsoil, to grow our grass and forage, to able to 100 per cent support itself, without the need for off-farm feed input,” said Kyler.
As for their daughters, “We want them to lead the healthiest lives they each possibly can have, now and wherever their ambitions and plans may take them,” explained Sylvia.
Kyler affectionately smiled, adding, “It would be nice if some of them stuck around to help out on the farm.”
This family really lives the Clearwater motto of “Love where you live” right here in rural B.C.